Instructionals: The Rise of Educational & Instructional Sex Videos

Alexander Poe

Porn stud Ramon Nomar is passionately reaming female performer Dana DeArmond’s anus. Derrick Pierce has Skin Diamond tied up — literally — and right where he wants her, before telling her exactly what he wants her to do during their kinky, sweaty roll upon the sheets.

Yes, they’re porn scenes.

Our Nina Hartley Guides are the most popular (of our instructional videos). There are over 40 different subjects, covering most everything from masturbation to Swinging, and we think they’re popular because Nina enjoys such wide recognition and respect, so people try the guides. -Bob Christian

The only difference is that before, during, and/or after each episode, sex performer jessica drake and erotic advisor Tristan Taormino are also giving advice, commentary, instructions, respectively, on the proper ways to engage in such kink play (in both Wicked’s Guide to Anal and Adam & Eve’s Guide to Bondage for Couples).

The movies are known as “instructionals” or how-to videos. And such educational sex videos — typically produced by fairly well-respected adult entertainment companies and sex institutes — seem as popular as ever, viewed by a wide range of consumers and covering not only anal and bondage, but numerous topic such as lesbian sex, fellatio, use of toys, multiple partner sex, and role-playing.

The popularity of these movies may, indeed, go back to the whole “50 Shades of Grey” explosion several years ago and the fact that curiosity about sex has become all the more open and mainstream than ever.

“The ‘50 Shades’ thing brought a whole new audience to the adult boutique,” says Lucy Vonne D’Olimpio Kendrick, head of sales and education at Evolved Novelties, which, aside from being a sex-toy company, also (in partnership with Zero Tolerance Entertainment) puts out instructionals.

“The idea of the instructional video,” continues Lucy, “made it okay for people to ask about trying this or that. Learning from experts and educators is much more efficient than watching porn. People can learn in the comfort of their own home.”

But who better to be “educators” of sex than the porn stars themselves? And that includes ladies like, again, jessica drake and, for Adam & Eve Productions, Nina Hartley, who for years have both been practicing in front of the camera, for the entire world to witness, precisely what they’re now preaching as the hostesses of instructionals.

“Our Nina Hartley Guides are the most popular (of our instructionals videos),” Adam & Eve General Manager Bob Christian points out. “There are over 40 different subjects, covering most everything from masturbation to Swinging, and we think they’re popular because Nina enjoys such wide recognition and respect, so people try the guides.

“By working with such legendary educators as Nina Hartley, Tristan Taormino, Jamye Waxman, Candida Royalle and Sinclair Institute, we draw many eyeballs to our instructional products.”

And where exactly are instructionals being bought? A better question might be: Where AREN’T they being bought? Outlets include adult boutiques, online retail stores, adult distributors, brick-and-mortar stores, lingerie stores, VOD, health-oriented catalogs. And they do, indeed, seem to be going like hot cakes. But who precisely are consuming these hot products?

According to Rebecca Cook—senior director of sales and marketing at The Sinclair Institute, developing an extensive library of instructionals since 1991, covering everything from sexual positions to erectile dysfunction solutions — the consumer demographics cover both ends of the age spectrum.

“We find that our hard-good DVD customer consists of predominantly older couples who are not digital/VOD savvy and still watch DVDs rather than stream content on-line,” notes Rebecca. “As a matter of fact, we still get requests for VHS versions of our films. These older couples are often looking for advice how to overcome issues or dysfunction, or to just spice up a long-term relationship. Our VOD streaming definitely appeals to the younger individual and couples who may know the basics (or maybe not), and want to explore hotter topics including oral, anal, or submission & domination. Because our films include all ages, sizes and ethnicities, we do appeal to a wide range of viewers who feel comfortable at any age and through any medium.”

Wicked Pictures contract star and director jessica drake, also a sex educator who gives workshops, similarly observes that the market for instructionals is all over the map.

“(They’re popular with) couples and singles alike, I’d say from 18-80, much like those who attend my workshops. I think everyone is seeking out whatever their sex ed was lacking, I think they want to get to know their bodies better, and they want to better please their partners. By far my top sellers are Fellatio, Anal, Anal Play for Men, and the most recently sold-out Plus Size, a topic which had never been done at all prior to my collaboration with Kelly Shibari. I imagine those titles are popular because people are so very curious about them.

“Also, women have asked me many times about blowjob tips, how to have anal sex, and confided in me that their husbands/boyfriends enjoy anal play.”

Women definitely seem big consumers of the instructionals. This fascinating demographic is substantiated by well-known sexologist and sex coach Dr. Patti Britton, who develops many sexed videos for The Alexander Institute, which (for over 20 years) has been producing how-to titles, uniquely shot in documentary style and utilizing real-life couples.

“The recent interest from women is not new to us,” reports Britton. “Women have always been interested in our programs, which have been marketed to couples in their 30s, 40s, and up—but, again, primarily purchased by women. Women today know better what they want sexually and are not afraid to say it.”

Lucy Vonne D’Olimpio Kendrick of Evolved Novelties concurs.

“Women more than men are usually the buyers of the DVDs… when they are single, even when it comes to couples, too,” she admits. “Don’t get me wrong, the guys love to learn on their own, as well. But typically, you only see them when coming in (to adult boutiques) with their partner.

Aside from buying sex-ed titles to explore new sexual vistas and pleasing both themselves and their partners, men and women also seek out instructionals for other provocative reasons.

“Sinclair Institute films about sexual positions sell very well,” says Rebecca Cook. “Often customers are looking for information on the best positions to combat pain or disability. Position films also explore variety, spicing it up, trying something new, as well as reaching the G spot or other erogenous zones.”

Anal still being a big how-to-video seller, Evolved Novelties/Zero Tolerance have a highly original way to market such instructionals, i.e., by actually packaging the DVD with the toys & tools (lube, butt plugs, etc.) which can be used to practice such sex acts.

“Anal — everyone is into anal these days, for both our DVDs and kits,” Lucy matter-of-factly states. “This does well because it’s a subject that one does have a lot a questions about and should be informed properly. The kit really does give them everything they need to start with anal and that makes it an easy buy. Everything is thought out right there for you: They can go home, watch the movie, and then use what comes in the kit to recreate the action…and learn in the comfort of their own home. It’s an all-in-one item.”

Aside from the Evolved/Zero’s clever packaging of instructionals, other creative ways which continue to successfully sell these videos include putting them in their on how-to section in stores, in their own display racks (the Sinclair Institute, for example, offers a bookstore style rotating floor fixture that displays their entire library), and, of course, having well-displayed endorsements from popular porn stars and sexperts.

Lingerie stores have also proven a key factor in selling sex-ed videos. A monopoly venture, in fact.

“Instructionals are sometimes the ONLY kind of adult, sexy movies that a lingerie store carries,” says Adam & Eve’s Bob Christian.

Another method strengthening sales is cross-marketing IN the videos themselves; that is, using popular toys to illustrate various areas of sex play. Not a new technique. But still an effective one.

Notes Dr. Patti Britton: “One of our popular Alexander Institute releases, ‘Amazing Sex Toys for Lovers,’ shows couples how to improve intimacy with the newest, most innovative toys available from Lelo, JimmyJane, OhMiBod, We-Vibe, Fun Toys, Revel Body, Joy Division, Leaf and others. It’s doing well because now that sex toys have gone mainstream, couples appreciate these exquisite new designs as a healthy part of their relationship.”

And what about further growth in the instructionals market? Is there room? Is the market close to peaking? Or has it already peaked?

“I think there is a ton of room for growth,” proclaims Lucy Vonne D’Olimpio Kendrick. “Not only do you have the beginners who want to learn, but you have a group of people who are experienced and want to take that to the next level. That leaves you room for additional movies on the subject. There are lots of opportunities to branch out with educational LGBT movies, too. I think we’ve really only scratched the surface.”

Ultimately, of course, the secret of success here is in the product itself—and that involves consistently finding the correct mixture of knowledge and, yes, heat.

“(Making instructionals) goes far beyond the birds and bees,” Rebecca Cook of The Sinclair Institute points out. “It entails just the right balance of information, therapeutic insight, and demonstration without being gratuitous, alienating, self-serving, or preachy. The right balance to educate while entertain, as well as appeal to both men and women and open the conversation, so couples can explore their sexuality further.”

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